Morning Consult: Trump closing the gap, but may be too late

Another week brings us yet another bizarre set of polling numbers in the presidential race courtesy of Morning Consult. The top lines obviously still don’t look great for Trump since he’s trailing by six at 44-38. But the MC folks are reading the tea leaves and finding things even worse than those bare bones figures would make it appear. Their latest sample shows that half the country has written Trump off entirely… at least this week.

Donald Trump took drastic measures this week with a campaign shakeup after seeing his polling numbers plummet since the national political conventions in late July, but is it too little, too late?

A new Morning Consult survey testing the ceiling of support for the presidential candidates suggests it’s an uphill climb for the GOP nominee: Trump has crossed the 50 percent threshold, but in the wrong direction.

In a new poll this week, half of all voters said they would definitely not consider voting for Trump, while 45 percent of respondents said they definitely wouldn’t consider voting for Clinton.


If we ignore for a moment the fact that this is yet another snapshot taken ten weeks out from the actual election, there’s clearly some dire looking data here. The biggest item, as noted in their summary, is that 50% of voters surveyed are ruling out voting for Trump under any circumstances. If this were a straight up, two person race that would essentially be a disqualifier. But with only 35% of respondents saying they will definitely vote for Clinton and an increasing number taking a more serious look at both Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, we’re almost certainly setting ourselves up for a plurality election, so that fifty percent barrier may not be as daunting as it would be in a more normal cycle.

The momentum shift might also lead us to suspect that their conclusion could be, at a minimum, fairly premature. First of all, neither candidate is demonstrating sustained movement this summer. In the sample taken on July 31st, just after the DNC, Hillary was up 43-40, recovering from Trump’s lead coming out of the GOP convention. Then, on August 7th, they showed Clinton with a nine point spread, leading 46 – 37. Since that was two polls in a row and an almost double digit lead, many interpreted that as the race being essentially over. But now the same poll has Clinton’s lead back down to six… a 33% drop. That’s some fairly significant slippage for somebody being declared the presumptive winner.

There are also some issues with the sample, just as we’ve seen in previous surveys. If you open up the crosstabs and turn to page 27 for the demographics they once again beg a few questions. Right off the bat we should note that this is yet another survey of registered voters, not likely ones. Trump has consistently done better in the likely voter column this summer. In terms of affiliation we’re back to a party breakdown of 36 Dem, 35 IND and 29 GOP with no leaners counted. I’ve yet to see a viable national model producing that sort of dominance for the Democrats. Plus, in one of the stranger curves for a national survey, this sample has a gender split of 53% women to 47% men. When was the last time you saw the ladies outperform the men on election day by that kind of a spread? And Trump does better among men.

All in all, I still find it useful to track Morning Consult on a week to week basis for their sample size and consistency. From that perspective, Trump made up some ground from the low he hit during Clinton’s post-convention bump, but he’s still got plenty of work to do. Calling the race a done deal at this point, however, is ludicrous. Six points is barely outside the margins, we’re still more than two months out and the first debates can and frequently do throw everything into a top hat. I wouldn’t call this week’s numbers great news for Donald Trump, but Clinton supporters shouldn’t be doing any end zone dances just yet either.